We’ve all witnessed screaming children out in public, as their parents frantically tried to calm them down, but what do you do when it’s your own child who is throwing a temper tantrum? Meltdowns are emotionally draining to deal with for everyone involved, but it’s important to remember that they are very normal and an important stage in your child developing his or her own coping skills. Whether a fit is caused by a favorite toy being taken away, wanting to leave the grocery store, or an early bedtime, the root cause of most tantrums is your child not getting exactly what they want, when they want it.
Different Ages, Different Causes.
It’s important to take your child’s age into account when deciding how to handle a temper tantrum. Toddlers become easily frustrated because they are unable to effectively communicate what they want. Your toddler might want juice and throw their sippy cup across their room when there is milk inside, or you might make the mistake of handing them their teddy bear when they really wanted to play with their blocks. Older children are frequently sent into meltdown mode when you won’t buy them the latest & greatest toy at the store or won’t let them have a friend come over.
The good news is that no matter what age your child is, there are effective ways of dealing with temper tantrums that can actually help strengthen your relationship with your child while still making it clear that they need to listen to you.
Create a Diversion & Change of Scenery
Trying to explain to your toddler why they can’t use crayons on the wall won’t get anyone very far. At this age, creating a diversion might be the only way to stop a tantrum right in its tracks. The next time your little Picasso is decorating your walls in every color of the rainbow, instead of repeating “please stop” over and over, try excitedly suggesting a trip to the park, or opening up a favorite book for story time. Your child will quickly forget about their latest redecorating plans and will be excited for a new activity.
Give Them Space & Ignore the Tantrum
In the middle of a tantrum, your child is not thinking rationally and will likely be impossible to reason with. Sometimes, the best choice is to simply make sure your child is in a quiet and safe place and let them deal with their meltdown on their own. According to the CDC , “By giving your child attention during tantrums, you may accidentally reward the behavior and increase the chance it will happen again. When you ignore some misbehaviors, you can make it less likely your child will do the behavior again.” Once your child calms down, you can both speak calmly about the situation and work together towards a resolution.
Remain Calm Using Empathy & Hugs
In the midst of a meltdown, emotions are running high for parent and child alike. It’s important to remember that you are the rational parent, and your little one is trying their best to express what they want. If you physically put yourself at their level and speak to them face to face, it will help them feel like their emotions are valid and you genuinely want to help them feel better.
According to Multiplying Connections , “Being on the same physical level as you can help children feel safer, more in control, and more connected to you. It communicates to them that you are there for them and really paying attention to them.” This can be especially difficult when dealing with a toddler given their newly developing language skills, and sometimes asking them to point to what they would like or asking them questions is the best way to get to the root of the problem. When all other reasoning fails, opening up your arms and holding your little one close can help reestablish the feelings of safety and security, and you may find that your child is more inclined to open up about what was bothering them after a quick snuggle session.
Tantrums, while frustrating, are a normal and important part of development. It’s a big world out there and your little one is eager to explore it all. One of our jobs as parents is helping our children learn how to effectively deal with their emotions and validate their feelings. Through a lot of patience, understanding, and teamwork, the way you handle tantrums can ultimately strengthen your bond with your child and lead to a better understanding of one another.